As incredible as it may seem, there are over 10,000 varieties of wine grapes in the world today. So many wines – so little time. Actually, only about 230 of those varieties are made into wines. Still, that’s a lot of wine.
Most varieties of wine grapes have obscure names that hardly anyone would recognize. At the other end of the spectrum are those varieties that appear on every wine list — like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and Chardonnay. There are still other varietal wines, though, that are popular today but not widely known. Ordering these wines when you see them on a list will send a message that you know your wines.
A Few of Our Favorite “New” Wine Grapes
Albariño. Look out, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc! Albariño is gaining on you. And for good reason. It’s zingy. That’s the acid talking. Think citrus. It’s clean and crisp and sometimes even a little effervescent.
Carmenère. Red, red, red. The name comes from the French world for crimson. It’s spicy and peppery. In the late 1800s, Carmenère was brought from France to Chile, where most of the wines not originate. Inside scoop: For a long time Chilean growers thought the grape was Merlot – and labeled the wine that way. But DNA testing in the 1990s set the record straight.
Mourvèdre. Mourvèdre is a real powerhouse and offers intense color, high acid and high tannins. Because of its assertive character, it’s often used as a blending grape to beef up other, wimpier grapes. However, some winemakers – particularly in California and Spain (where it’s known as Monastrell) – are producing it as a single varietal.
Torrontés. Two can tango. Especially in Argentina. Like its red counterpart Malbec, Torrontés is making a big splash in the US. Torrontés wines have exuberantly floral scents and soft citrus flavors. They’re dry and delicate for the most part and are meant to be consumed soon after their release.
Barbara and Beverly